'Another' retires before Belmont

Unfortunately, I'll Have Another was not to become another Triple Crown champion this weekend despite showing every indication that he would have conquered the Belmont Stakes as effortlessly as he had the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes.

The news that the Triple Crown hopeful was to be retired from active horse racing just days before he was due to make history came as a disappointment to many of his loyal supporters. According to I'll Have Another's trainer, Doug O'Neill, the colt was looking fantastic but later it was discovered that he had tendonitis. Instead of watching him conclude his winning streak at Belmont, fans witnessed his retirement ceremony in the winner's circle just 50 minutes before the Belmont race started.

Nonetheless, horse racing enthusiasts expressed their relief that I'll Have Another will make a speedy recovery before being put out to stud but are still disappointed that they have not seen the first Triple Crown victory of the century. He also had the full support of the virtual horse racing community who, like the rest of the world, were anxious to see if the three-year-old colt could've earned a place for himself in the history of the Triple Crown at Belmont this past Saturday. The last real-life Triple Crown winner was Affirmed in 1978.

The virtual horse racing community at Digiturf.com also expressed their disbelief at the news as they were rooting for the young colt to make history, after following his races as he distinguished himself in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes championship races and was tipped to win the Belmont Stakes. They even created an online simulation of the Triple Crown that included digital versions of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes, complete with qualifiers, championships and US$7,000 sponsorships. While the Virtual Triple Crown sounds like it is all fun and games at Digiturf.com, there was some serious training and preparation involved as trainers attempted to win the Virtual Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing.

The virtual horse racing community was so excited about seeing a Triple Crown victory that they threw their support behind I'll Have Another's chance to make history in the same way they supported Samster when she won the Triple Crown of Virtual Horse Racing at Digiturf.com in 2003. Samster is the fourth highest ranked trainer in Digiturf.com's Hall of Fame and the only one to have won a Triple Crown this century.

Winning a Triple Crown is so rare, it seems unbelievable that the only Triple Crown victory of the century was a virtual one online at Digiturf.com when Samster won the Triple Crown Sprint Championship, the following day she won the Triple Crown Classic Championship, and as the luck of the Triple Crown would have it, Samster rode her virtual horse to victory across the finish line at the Triple Crown Stayers Championship to rapturous applause. She would become the first and only Triple Crown winner on Digiturf.com to date.

It was a phenomenal accomplishment that has never been repeated. It's time for another one said the virtual horse racing community at Digiturf.com who were as excited about seeing who would win the 2012 Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York as they were about seeing who would win the virtual Belmont Stakes at Digiturf.com.

Karl Khoder certainly mastered the art of training virtual horses at Digiturf.com, especially with his champion colt, Rule The Air, who beat the competition to claim the 2012 Kentucky Derby Championship title as his own. Ironically, even though Rule The Air had positioned himself in the final field for the championship against ninety-three other contenders in the Kentucky Derby qualifiers, Karl Khoder said that winning the 2012 Kentucky Derby Championship was still a shock because he never thought that his horse had a chance!

There were strong hopes that Rule The Air would repeat his Kentucky victory in the 2012 Preakness Stakes, in anticipation of a triple victory at the 2012 Belmont Championships, but those hopes were dashed as he fell behind to tenth position in the finals. The 2012 Preakness title went to Freak Turbulence from Maple Leaf Farms. Freak Turbulence was a longshot in the finals even though he'd managed to qualify with just two qualifying runs but he was competing against stronger competition who had beaten most over the classic distances and there were strong suspicions that his preferred race would be over a stayer distance. Clearly Maple Leaf Farms had done their homework because judging by their racing history for Freak Turbulence this horse is racing well over all distances and goings at Digiturf.com.

Knowing that there wasn't going to be a Virtual Triple Crown winner on Digiturf.com this year only fuelled their interest in I'll Have Another winning the Triple Crown in real-life racing but it was not meant to be. The virtual horse racing community at Digiturf.com would like to extend a message of support and solidarity to I'll Have Another and the team that worked so tirelessly to train him for the Triple Crown. His legacy remains an inspiration for the entire horse racing community -- both at the track and online.

Digiturf.com is a simulated online horse racing game where players develop their skills and strategies in owning, training and racing virtual horses against others from around the world. The horses are computer generated but the stakes are real.